'Do-everything' QB Shea Patterson named Michigan starter
Ann Arbor — Shea Patterson will be Michigan's starting quarterback when the season opens at Notre Dame on Sept. 1.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh made the announcement Monday at the M Club of Ann Arbor's luncheon at Weber's Inn, Dave Ablauf, Michigan football spokesman, confirmed Monday afternoon via text.
Patterson transferred to Michigan from Ole Miss last December and very quickly the hype machine was generated, as NFL.com placed him No. 3 on its list of 18 preseason Heisman Trophy candidates.
His new teammates have gushed about Patterson, who has competed with Brandon Peters, Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton for the starting job, during preseason camp.
“He can do everything you want him to do,” defensive end Rashan Gary said recently of Patterson. “He expands plays so you have to watch your rush lanes and he can throw the deep ball, so playing against him is just playing against a quarterback who can do everything — run the ball, throw the ball, anything. He’s everything you need in one.”
Gary wasn’t about to concede that Patterson has pushed around Michigan’s defense during preseason camp, though.
“We contain him,” Gary said. “He busts plays open. It’s a good battle, but we hold our defense to certain standards. I’m not going to sit here and tell you he’s running all over our defense.”
Running back Karan Higdon played coy during Big Ten media days when asked about Patterson.
“You’ll have to find out (how good),” Higdon said, smiling. “I will say he can definitely keep plays alive.”
Several of the offensive players last week said the offense, run by a staff that was shaken up and reassembled coming off the 8-5 season, has been tweaked, presumably to take advantage of Patterson’s skill-set.
“It’s less 21 personnel and downhill running game,” running back Chris Evans said. “It’s more spread out a little bit for the quarterbacks.”
Patterson was able to go through spring practice with the Wolverines and was ruled eligible to compete this fall by the NCAA in late April.
Patterson made 10 starts at Ole Miss, including three as a freshman in 2016. A knee injury cut short his season last year. He had completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 2,259 yards, 17 touchdowns — Michigan had nine passing touchdowns all of last season — and nine interceptions in 2017.
“He’s really getting the grasp of the offense, that’s the biggest thing,” Harbaugh said last week. “Time on task, learning the nuances of the offense, he has greatly improved since the spring.”
Defensive end Chase Winovich raved about Patterson during the Big Ten media days in Chicago.
“I think Shea has done an awesome job,” Winovich said. “I saw him throw this one pass where it was — I played quarterback in high school, so I know elementary levels of playing quarterback mechanics and throwing the ball down field. There was one play he rolled out and I was on the sideline, and he threw the pass. It felt like Chicago. The wind was blowing in the opposite direction, but he threw a 30-40 yard pass down the field,and it was right on the money.
“It wasn’t the prettiest ball because of the wind, but at that point I knew this kid is something special. He was able to consistently do that. That was early on in spring. He definitely caught my eye after he was able to do that. He’s just so smooth. His pocket presence … he doesn’t have what it takes to shake me — I love Shea, so I can chirp.”
Patterson acclimated quickly to his new teammates and situation.
“When he first got here he was a little quiet, obviously because he really didn’t know anybody,” tight end Zach Gentry said last week. “He’s a confident guy. He knows he has good qualities and a lot of ability, so he carries himself confidently.”
That has been a consistent description of Patterson — confident but not in-your-face cocky.
“I got to know Shea early when he got to campus,” offensive lineman Ben Bredeson said last week. “I thought he was a great dude. Great to hang out with. Funny guy. He’s quiet, keeps to himself. Didn’t have a big mouth or anything, not trying to show off when he got here. So he fit right in.”
Patterson hasn’t spent much time with local media. While in Paris during the Wolverines’ spring trip, he made his first public comments as a Wolverine after he was cleared by the NCAA for immediate eligibility.
He was asked why he chose Michigan once he transferred from Ole Miss, which is under NCAA probation.
“I would have stayed at Ole Miss if it wasn’t for the situation we were in,” Patterson said of the probation. “I don’t think I could have went my whole college career with … I can live with throwing an interception in the national championship game. … It might be hard to live with that but I don’t know if I could have lived with not even being able to get a chance to compete for one. Watching Michigan all last year, and with the guys we’ve got coming back on defense, I feel like we’ve got a really good shot at doing that.”
Harbaugh praised Patterson’s ability to adapt quickly to a new situation and said at the time he had a strong showing during spring practice.
“He’s got a lot of special qualities,” Harbaugh said in the spring. “There’s plenty of attributes he has in the arm talent department. I mean, he is really talented when it comes to throwing the ball. He’s really good and elusive and has a really good feel for the game.”
Patterson had worn No. 20 in tribute to his grandfather who wore that number while playing professional basketball for the Detroit Pistons.
But he is wearing No. 2 at Michigan, the number Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson made famous when he helped lead the Wolverines to the 1997 national championship. Patterson was hesitant to wear the No. 2 and called Woodson to chat about it.
“He’s one of the best players ever to play college football,” Patterson told The Detroit News in June. “I didn’t feel I could walk in and wear the 2. I wanted to make sure it was OK with him. He said it was OK and said, ‘You have to represent that number well and be the hardest worker and be a leader,’ because that’s what he was.”
Patterson was born in Toledo and his father, Sean, was a Michigan season-ticket holder.
Sean Patterson told The News in June that he would tell his young son a bedtime story that always revolved around Michigan football. The stories would always took place at Michigan Stadium before a raucous crowd watching the Wolverines in a tight game facing a desperate situation.
The little boy known then as “Shea Man” would emerge from the stands and take over the offense and lead the Wolverines to the game-winning touchdown.
Now, Patterson gets his chance to lead the Wolverines.
“This is something I’ve worked for my whole life,” he told The News. “Now looking back and remembering those bedtime stories, it’s crazy to think about how time flies and crazy to think I’ll be a quarterback at Michigan.”
And he will finally run out of the Michigan Stadium tunnel wearing the famed winged helmet.
“I’ve dreamt of that since I was a little kid,” he said. “That will be a day that I will remember forever.”